Some Assembly Required: José R. Alvarado's Film Canister Camera

This series focuses on those who take the making of pictures a step or two further, creating their own photographic tools.

Photo made with the film canister camera

José R. Alvarado, Valparaíso, Chile

Chilean photographer José R. Alvarado has made pinhole cameras from almost any object he could think of, including oatmeal boxes and even a pineapple. His most recent camera is made from a standard black film canister. Beautiful in its simplicity, the film canister camera was once a device for storing undeveloped photographic images, and now it creates them. In just 15 minutes, Alvarado repurposed this utilitarian object into a pinhole camera by cutting a square in the center of the canister where he placed a piece of aluminum from a soda can containing the 0.4mm pinhole. Tiny and portable, the film canister camera can produce a 4 x 4 centimeter image or 8 x 4 centimeter image depending on the photographic paper used. Currently, Alvarado has used Ilford RC black-and-white paper with the camera but is experimenting with cyanotypes and salted paper.

Film canister camera.jpg

View more of Alvarado’s work on his website.

Have you made or modified your own photographic equipment? Let us know at